Yumiko Araki, head of the nine-member Japan Communist Party caucus within the Yokohama City Council, tells Asia Gaming Brief in an exclusive interview that she believes Mayor Fumiko Hayashi intends to go forward with an IR bid, but attention may now be shifting from Yamashita Pier to Minato Mirai as the most likely location.
Araki points out that Mayor Hayashi has never denied under questioning in the city council that she might back an IR bid, and Araki surmises that the mayor has in fact never altered her intention to move forward with a bid.
However, the opposition of Yukio Fujiki, chairman of the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association, may require a change of location.
“The situation for building a casino at Yamashita Pier has become increasingly difficult, but there is also Minato Mirai, which has a convention hall that could become part of the development that is required by the regulations.”
Araki notes that the Keikyu Corporation is particularly keen to build an IR, and that the company is planning to move its headquarters from Tokyo to the Minato Mirai district of Yokohama in the autumn of 2019.
She also cites the background political influence of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, whom she believes is working behind the scenes with Mayor Hayashi to push forward a Yokohama IR bid.
Araki states that casinos are not needed in Yokohama nor anywhere else in Japan.
On June 5, all nine members of the Japan Communist Party’s Yokohama City Council took to the streets near Kannai Station in an attempt to head off the potential IR bid.
Councilman Tamio Kawaji, one of Araki’s delegation members, was quoted as saying, “At the same time as Mayor Hayashi says she is a ‘blank slate’ on the casino issue, it has been included as an item for consideration in the city’s four-year plan. Over 70% of our citizens have declared themselves against a casino. When I went on a tour of a casino in Korea, I was astonished by the devastation of the city. We must not allow this to occur in Yokohama.”
The draft of the Yokohama City Midterm Four-Year Plan 2018-2021 was unveiled last month and the public comment period is ongoing until June 22.
The document included the following sentence: “In regard to an Integrated Resort, we will consider the possibility while observing national trends.”
The Japan Communist Party holds the fourth-largest caucus and more than 10% of the seats in the Yokohama City Council.